Daddy got a race car in a box

I got a box in the mail. Bella was using it as a chair in the living room when I got home from work. I asked her what she thought was in it. She said “A Race Car”.

Funny thing is, the kid was right!

It was my rolls of plastic for my 3d printer. The box has whatever we want in it that my printer can print.

So I printed a race car, put it in the box, and the two of us opened the box right before bed time.










Rebuilt build platform for my MakerGear Prusa Mendel RepRap with mirror

I rebuilt the heated build platform on my MakerGear Prusa Mendel. I’ve been having problems with it ‘eating’ glass. I didn’t recess the thermistor enough, so the glass would try to ‘bend’ over it, and break.

These are 3D stereoscopic images. You can look at them crossed eyed and get the full effect. You can click for a larger view as well.

image of Original print bed with broken glass.
Original print bed with broken glass. I used the printer like this for months. Really limits what you can print. I’ve actually not used the printer in 2 months because of it being broken like this.


image original build platform
This is how I’d configured the board to accept the heater. The notches are for the thermistor and wire runs.
image of Lining up the dremel to route out the board
Here I am lining up the dremel to route out the board. I wanted to recess the heater flush with the face of the board. So I used the router fence I had printed on my printer.
image of routed lines and chiseling out the excess
Here you can see my routed lines and chiseling out the excess. Running the dremel-router was a l of fun.
image of recessed area for the heater PCB
I’ve finished the recessed area for the heater PCB. It was fairly easy to use the chisel to chunk out the bits between my routed grooves. I used the grooves as a depth gage and tried to go that deep.
image looking at the bottom of the board
Here we are looking at the bottom of the board. I cut in 2 notches for the belt clamps as well as 4 holes for the bolt heads. This allows the board to set much lower than it could previously and still offer ‘springyness’.
image of installed print platform
I’ve installed the print platform. Notice that the bolts are recessed in so they sit flush to the board as well as the heater PCB. This will allow a full sized piece of glass.
image of installed heater PCB
The installed heater PCB looks pretty good I think.
image of heater PCB sits flush to the print bed platform
You can see the heater PCB sits flush to the print bed platform now. Hopefully I’ve got everything right now, and I will no longer break the glass print surface.
image of print platform height
You you can see how low the print platform is now. I’ve barely enough clearance over the Y carriage pulley. I’ve still got over an eighth inch of give too!
image of a cut mirror for a build platform
I am not very good as cutting glass. I broke my first piece. This is a mirror panel I rescued from the trash. Originally from Ikea. It’s very thin glass. I’ve heard good things about printing on mirror. Going to give it a try.
image of mirrored print bed
You can see my shiny new mirrored print bed. You can see that the mirror edges extend all the way to the edge of the build platform. I think this looks cooler. It also gives me more room to clamp the print surface down and avoid nozzle contact with the binder clips.
image of MakerGear Prusa Mendel RepRap with mirrored print bed
Now to level the print bed. This is going to be tedious as I have to remove the print surface to make any adjustments. I may try to cut my broken mirror piece down to use for leveling. It would expose the bolt heads.

All in all, I am pretty happy with these modifications. I should get a bit more print height. It looks cooler, and maybe I will turn the printer on again soon and start printing again!

The next serious modification will be a water cooling block for the nozzle. I’ve an idea for that…

3d printer ideas for custom aquaponics fittings

I am seriously excited about getting my 3d printer. It’s been a week since I ordered it, so 1-2 more weeks according to the confirmation email I got.

The printer can print in ABS. This can be a stinky plastic to print, but I’ve plans for making a fume hood for the printer that vents outside through the basement window. ABS is considered a food safe plastic, which means it should be safe to use in my aquariums.

I could do things like print out custom aquarium decorations, which I am likely to do. However, I am really excited about the prospects of printing out custom aquaponics fittings.

There are a couple of ‘fiddly bits’ in aquaponics, such as the bell siphon. When they work, they work great, but they can be a serious PITA to get that stage. There are people who have done a lot of original research on how to make the siphons start and stop easier such as Affnan. However, he has access to parts I can’t get locally. Now I will be able to print them out for myself!

Another item I would be able to print would be a tipper. It’s best explained in the video here.

I can print out a tipper that is shaped exactly to the space that is needed to fit into the grow bed. If I need a long, narrow unit, I can print that, a short squat one, I can do that too.

I can print out meshed safety cages to keep baby fishes out of the siphons at will. No more needing to attack PVC with a drill to poor effect!

I am terribly excited about all of this..

I ordered my 3d printer last weekend.

I’ve been following the RepRap movement (DIY Rapid Prototyping machines also known as 3d printers) for at least 3 years now. MSOE had several of the commercial units that I drooled over frequently, but never got a chance to dig deeper into. Thus, I’ve been aware of the technology for nearly 15 years now. But it’s been 3 years that I’ve seriously considered actually owning one for myself. I’ve not jumped in for fear that the learning curve is a bit too steep for me. Electronics, mechanics, software programming, etc.

Until now.

The 3d printing world has evolved very quickly to the point where you can now purchase ready-to-run (RtR) kits, and fully assembled ready-to-run hobbiest level products. The technology that most people are focusing on basically is a robotic hot glue gun melting rolls of weed-wip string (to use a very simplistic view of the process).

I was fully intending to purchase a Thing-O-Matic (ToM) with this year’s tax returns. They seem to be the current high-publicity player in the RtR and fully assembled scene. They are basically kicking butt and taking names when it comes to press coverage. However, when I had enough money in the bank, I couldn’t order the machine I wanted. They did a little too good of a job, having all their printers listed as out of stock. (Although, as I write this post, I can again order the ToM from their website. Oohps, silly them. Their loss.

A panicked and sent a couple of messages to a fellow in-the-works 3d-print-fan. He sent me a couple of links for places to start looking for good alternatives that where in my price range.

I settled on a style called a RepRap Prusa Mendal. This is basically the current most popular of the ‘hacker’ or ‘tinkerer’ machines. The format is about 3 years old now, so it’s pretty mature as far as these things go. Most of the bugs have been worked out of them, and there is lots of examples of other people building them and having solved the problems you are likely to encounter.

I looked around, and I could find kits that I could order NOW from India, Singapore, and Ohio among other places that listed them at higher prices than I was willing to pay. The one from Ohio was the most expensive of the ones I considered of course, but came with stainless steel hardware, brass bushing instead of plastic ones, quality bearing sets, and the like. They also appeared to have the most responsive tech support of the three. Additionally, it seems like lots of people are buying individual component kits from them and using them on other maker’s machines, which is a good signal as to their quality.

So I ordered a Prusa Mendal RepRap kit from

2-3 weeks for delivery… I feel like a little kid on Christmas eve but on groundhogs day… for 14 to 21 days…

People ask me what can I do with it. I read online that this is like a similar question 30 years ago when people asked what can you do with a personal computer… Why, anything I want!

First off, it can print out all the plastic bits that are used to make itself, so I will be printing a set or two of those for myself for spares. Instead of buying all those cheap plastic bits called kid’s toys, I will print them out for my little girl – no lead paint in these! And in a few years, she can design her very own! I can print the wall grommets so I can run the TV wires through the wall to hide them – these only cost a couple of bucks to buy, and probably half that to print, but I don’t have to burn gas to go get them. A big one for me is that I can start printing some custom fittings for my aquaponics setups.

I see these 3d printers as another disruptive technology. As big of a deal as Ford’s Model T and the production line. 100 years later, we have the technology to get away from the mass produced model of making things. We can make a lot of the little things we need in our own homes again. This is a really big deal.

I can see that by the end of this decade, I will have a recycling & manufacturing center in my basement. I will sort and wash my recyclables and put them into a machine the size of my fridge (or smaller) and out comes useful things, on demand.

How do I know I am going to have one of these things? Because I am going to make it for myself..